Thursday, 16 April 2015

Literally Climbing the Walls

We've been promising to take Callum to Rock Reef since it opened nearly a year ago but with a 2 year old Millie around (4 is the youngest for climbing and 6 the youngest for most other activities) it hasn't been possible to do as a family so we thought a great opportunity would be for me to take Callum during the school holiday when Millie was at nursery.

After an initial disappointment thinking they weren't open during the day - I struggled to find out opening times on their website, Google told me the wrong opening times and then noone answering the phone when I called, I thought it wasn't going to happen. However, I'm grateful to the friends who shared the correct opening times and booked tickets for the next week at 10.30.

There was a range of activities and packages to choose from, some of which Callum was to young for and I didn't want to make it too expensive by having too many activities. I knew I definitely wanted to book the climbing and settled on the Pier Cave as a second activity. I did consider the zip wire but thought Stuart could take him on that another time.

Having signed the waiver online
in advance, along with the tickets being prebooked, entry was painless. We dumped out jumpers and my handbag in a locker (£1 non-returnable) then waited for the climbing instructor to run through the rules and set us up with a harness.

I've climbed a few times at a climbing centre in Guildford but not for a long while. Callum has been a couple of times at Lemur Landings, a nearby soft play centre in Poole and it was seeing him fly up the wall there and jump down again that convinced us we should take him climbing.

But faced with a full scale climbing wall about 15-20ft tall, that previous experience can all be forgotten especially when it comes to putting your faith in an automatic belay (the safety cable that enables you to get down from the wall once you reach the top or prevents you dropping like a stone to the ground if you fall). Even I struggled to let go at the top to make my way down. So it was no surprise Callum was a little apprehensive to start and didn't want to go too high. But, eventually, we built his confidence up and he scaled one of the highest walls made up of easy to climb large hexagon shapes. Understandably (though I did try to encourage him) he was too nervous to let go at the top so climbed his way back down again. There were so many walls to choose from to suit all levels of skill which meant there was plenty to keep us both happy and there were lots of walls I found too challenging to try. Even if you did find a wall too easy there were other challenges attached to the wall such as only using specific colour hand or foot holds. There were even two speed walls so you could race a friend or beat your own time (Callum reduced his first time of 63 seconds to 49, I got mine down from 19.52 seconds to 19.02). I was surprised how quick the time passed when climbing and could have easily continued trying different walls for another hour or so but before we knew it, it was time to go try out the Pier Cave. 

After reading the blurb online, I expected it to be a bit like a soft play activity with ball pools to drop in to all through (there was one ball pool at the start). I completely underestimated how tough it was going to be. It turns out I'm not as agile as a 6 year old and flexibility has never been my friend. My body turned and stretched through the tunnels in ways I didn't know it could and I collapsed unceremoniously, head first and without any grace, down the little drops and came out of it completely battered and bruised. In fact, when I noticed the young instructor sneakily sending us on different routes on our own instead of leading us like she did in the beginning I asked if I, too, could skip the last exploration and snuck out the back door with her. I would not recommend the cave if you are more than a little bit porky or are not particularly agile and certainly not if you are claustrophobic. Thankfully, I'm not claustrophobic, but even one of the teen girls in our group struggled with the close proximity of the cave walls.

At the end of the two activities we were both suitably tired but happy and really enjoyed the morning. 

Unfortunately, because you weren't allowed anything in your pockets etc when climbing, I had to leave my phone in the locker so didn't get to take any photos. 

For more information on Rock Reef on Bournemouth Pier, click here, but please note that all views are my own and this is not a sponsored post. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Drayton Manor Park & Thomas Land

Drayton Manor Park & Thomas Land

When I was a little girl, I used to go on caravanning holidays with my family and one of the places we used to go was Drayton Manor Park. We used to have wristbands allowing us to come and go in the park whenever we wanted. 

Since having Callum, I've been itching to go back there and then I found out they had Thomas Land. Until now, the right opportunity never arose.

The other day Callum suddenly announced he wanted to go to Thomas Land. He must've heard about it from someone at school. An idea started to form. We were due to travel to Stuart's brother's place in South Yorkshire and Drayton Manor Park was about halfway between home and there. We could break up the journey with a trip to the theme park and a stay in a hotel. 

We looked into it further and if we travelled up on Thursday we could stay in the Drayton Manor hotel for B&B and tickets to the park with 20% discount. This worked out even better as Stuart had a meeting near Lemington Spa on the Thursday so I could pick him up en route. It all seemed to be slotting in to place so I booked it. Entrance into the park itself is also much cheaper than the likes of Paulton's Park (with Peppa Pig World) and nearby Alton Towers. 

I left work early, picked up the kids from nursery and hit the road. 

4 hours later with a quick stop to pick up Stuart from the services just outside Oxford, we arrived at the hotel. 

We had 2 overexcited kids and I was gasping for a glass of wine!

The hotel room was quite nice and comfortable but I the kids loved all the little Thomas related decorative touches in the hallways and reception area.

The next day the weather was drizzly but mild so we weren't too down beat and Callum and Stuart had their eye on the first ride as soon as we entered. The apocalypse! One of those free fall rides where it took you to the top of a tall pole them dropped you. Stuart and I were amazed that Callum could go on it, though had to take the sitting position instead of the standing position. Millie and I headed for the big wheel instead. 

Following our first ride, booed on with confidence after enjoying the apocalypse, Stuart and Callum went on the next thrill seeking ride. This one went upside down. People started to comment how little Callum was gong on such a scaring ride. Then the ride started and Callum looked to be enjoying it. Then it got higher and his face wante so sure. Then it went upside and you can tell he wasn't enjoying it bless him. Stuart said after that he was calling for his teddy. Bless him. He was fine once he got off the ride but wisely said he wouldn't go on again. He was a little less brave thereafter but still went on loads of rides. The park were a little less restrictive on the ride heights to many of the other thence parks we have been to, which meant there were more rides we could all enjoy as a family, even Millie could go on some of them. 

We did a few more of the rides in the main park then headed to Thomas Land. The queues, which had been 10 minutes or less up until now, were a little longer in this part of the park so we did a monorail style ride on Winston followed by a short train ride on Percy. Callum drove Terence the Tractor in his driving school, there was a quick play in the playground and a stroll through the zoo. Then it was time for lunch. 

There were lots of food places to choose from. Callum was keen for a hot dog so we got the kids each one and as it was Good Friday, Stuart and I went for Fish and Chips though probably not the best choice as very slow service and not all that.

After lunch, The rain started to pick up a bit more so Stuart and Callum thought it was a good time to hit the log flume in the main park which was an RNLI lifeboat. Having just had lunch in want so keen so opted to take photos while Millie slept. Already wet from the rain, they were now drenched and a short 3 minute busy in the drier did little to reduce their soggy state. 

Then Stuart and I took it in turns to go on the big rides that even Callum want allowed to go on. By now, the rain had really set in which had the upside that the park want very busy and queues were short so both of us got straight on the Shockwave (which was the best ride in the park) and G-Force.

After this we did the cable cart which was probably the only ride in the park which was there from when I went as a little girl and then a few more of the Thomas Land rides. 

By now it was about 4pm and Stuart was feeling very wet and cold so we started making our way out stopping on a couple more rides on the way, including another go on the Ben10 rise which, despite his initial reservations, turned out to be one of Callum's favourite rides (guys first favourite being the RNLI water flume). 

Despite the weather we all had a very enjoyable day with their being plenty of rides for us all to enjoy and helped by the weather by keeping the crowds away and the queues short meaning we could go on more rides than you usually get time to at theme parks. 

Some people may also have been waiting for the Thomas Land expansion to open on the 8th but having glanced over at the development we didn't feel we missed out on much.

Would definitely recommend it for those with both big and little kids.